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Themes

One thing you can say for epic heroes: they're not humble. (As if that's something to be proud of.) One of Gilgamesh's defining characteristics at the start of The Epic of Gilgamesh is his unwavering and excessive pride. There is nothing Gilgamesh doesn't think he can do; and, once he defeats Humbaba his pride only skyrockets—and we see that in IMAX 3D when he spurns the goddess Ishtar's proposition of love. Even when Enkidu dies and Gilgamesh goes in search of immortality, he finds it pretty hard to wrap his mind around the possibility that he is mortal like everybody else. So, again, we at Shmoop think "Gilgamesh" must be Sumerian for "cocky, swollen-headed king."

Questions About Pride

  1. Who is the most prideful character in the Epic of Gilgamesh? Who is the least? Are the gods prideful? Do they have a right to be? Does Gilgamesh have a right to be prideful (he is the king of a great city and part god, after all)?
  2. Is pride always a bad thing in the Epic of Gilgamesh, or can it have good aspects too?
  3. Does Gilgamesh have to pay a price for his pride? 
  4. The poem ends with some prideful words by Gilgamesh to Urshanabi, as he points out the main features of the city of Uruk. Is this the same type of pride Gilgamesh shows in the beginning of the poem? If not, how is it different, and why is this change important?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, characters are able to swallow their pride when they know they have been beaten by the very best. Thus, in a paradoxical way, they are able to keep their pride intact.

Gilgamesh shifts from taking pride only in himself to taking pride in the city of which he is a member. This shows his shift away from complete self-centeredness, an important step in conquering the fear of death, and learning how to live.

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